It’s a hard thing to admit on a blog that aims to be theologically informed, but faith isn’t something that always comes easy to me.
Of late, it’s been especially hard—church, the Bible, Jesus’ divinity, the whole shebang. The thing about Advent, though, is that it becomes increasingly difficult to avoid that last bit. Even if you think Christianity is an outmoded way of thinking or a downright threat to human progress, it becomes hard to ignore this Jesus guy around the beginning of December. He’s hanging out in people’s front-lawn nativities and his name’s suddenly being mentioned on radio stations where it’s usually not spoken. The thing that Christians say all year—that he’s omnipresent—suddenly feels quite unavoidably true.
Figuring out how to engage or think about him in this season is weird when my soul-guts are all twisted and knotty regarding matters of faith. But I love this verse from Luke’s version of the Christmas story:
And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
Luke 2:7 (KJV)
It’s so simple, and maybe insignificant, but I love knowing that one of the first things that happened when Jesus of Nazareth entered the world was that his frail little human body was clothed. Whether it’s true or not, I like to imagine that Luke, traditionally believed to be an artist, included this detail because his artistic sensibility attuned him to this kind of specific aesthetic flourish. How very human, to need clothes. How very embodied—whatever or whoever Jesus was, he certainly wasn’t some spirit holograph floating through the ancient Near East like a Hogwarts ghost. He was flesh and blood and needed clothing.
I hope that this Christmas, the clothes we choose to wear will connect us with more than the much-complained-of consumerism that plagues so many Westerners during the holidays. May they instead remind us of the ways that clothing can humanize us, pointing to the fact that we are neither merely spirit nor merely flesh.
Jesus wore clothes. You get to, too. Merry Christmas!